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Stat to Watch: Iowa’s run game

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Rushing yards will be the key to beating the hated Boilers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Holiday Bowl - USC v Iowa
TGood should be plenty
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are numerous angles and takes that can be had regarding the upcoming B1G opener for our Hawkeyes. Forest Gump’s “Box of Chocolates” (when you read that or think that you say it like him, don’t you?) also leaves us wondering what we are going to get this Saturday.

Forest Gump Chocolates
Ya never know what you’re gonna get

Here’s what I think we should get. Tyler Goodson, Mekhi Sargent, and Ivory Kelly-Martin should have a field day, all day. Props to AD Adrian Peterson.

Last year Purdue gave up a ridiculous 192.5 yards a game on the ground. That is 4.74 yards per carry (that put them at 99th and 95th/130 respectively in the FBS vs the run). That’s terrible. Iowa and Kirk love to manage the game. Iowa loves to run the football. Here’s a breakdown of the hows and whys of this:

  1. Iowa has a new QB - it only makes sense to not put everything on Spencer Petras’ shoulder(s).
  2. The Boilers are terrible defending the run as stated earlier.
  3. Purdue may have the best WR tandem in college football. We want to keep the ball away from them and out of their hands. Thus, eat clock and shorten the game.
  4. What do we have with our new interim strength coach, Raimond Braithwaite? Tell me that Kirk doesn’t want to make a statement that we are still Iowa and we are still tough and strong in the trenches. What better way to show it out of the gate than to bully the Boilers w/ Braithwaite’s boys?
  5. Brian Ferentz showed in the Holiday Bowl against USC that he intends to give some different looks with our WR’s running the football. This will become a common element going forward. This misdirection will also freeze some linebackers. Iowa’s offense is evolving, folks!
  6. Spencer Petras was a sprinter and hurdler in high school, lettering three times. He’s still a big dude so he’s not a prototypical dual-threat, running quarterback, but he seems much more fleet of foot than Nate Stanley.
  7. The weather: Iowa is starting the season later than ever; inclement weather will play a factor this year more than in year’s past.
  8. The Bobby Diaco factor (if there is such a thing). Let’s take a look...
NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 11 UConn at Tulane
Bobby Diaco - Purdue Def Coordinator
Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bobby Diaco - New Purdue Defensive Coordinator

If this name sounds familiar it should. Bobby Diaco roamed the middle of the field (and opponents’ backfields) for Hayden Fry from 1992-1995. Hayden described him as tough and very intelligent. Diaco has bounced around as a head coach and defensive coordinator. His best stint was at Notre Dame as their defensive coordinator from 2010-2012. Diaco also has had stops at Cincinnati, Nebraska (LOL) and Louisiana Tech.

Diaco’s run defenses and their FBS rankings

Cincinnati (2009) 61/120

Notre Dame (2010) 50/120

Notre Dame (2011) 47/120

Notre Dame (2012) 11/124

Nebraska (2017) 115/130

Louisiana Tech (2019) 48/130

As you can see, a stout rush defense isn’t a staple of Coach Diaco’s system. Iowa’s run game has been a disappointment the last three years. This is a bit surprising when you think about it. Iowa doesn’t really have an identity on offense. Kirk and Brian have talked about balance. I guess I will give them that, but “balance” doesn’t seem like something you can hang your hat on. Wisconsin? They’re gonna run over you. Purdue? They will zip the ball all over the field, utilizing their playmakers. The Hawks churn out NFL talent on the offensive line. Here is some data on Iowa’s run game the last three years:

Diaco vs. the Run

Year Yards/Game Avg Rank
Year Yards/Game Avg Rank
2017 139.2 3.8 97
2018 148.4 3.7 95
2019 137.6 3.9 98

That is consistent. Consistently not very good. The last three years against Purdue the Hawks have averaged 100.7 yards rushing against the Boilers. It will be necessary for the Hawkeyes to establish the ground game against Purdue. I’d love to see the Hawks accumulate 175+ yards on the ground. That would be winning football for our boys. That sounds like Iowa football.